by Dale Reeves
Last Friday at Christ’s Church several of us were involved with two completely different celebrations on the same day: A celebration of life memorial service, and a celebration of marriage. While one family was grieving the passing of a deeply-loved wife, mother, and Nana; another family was celebrating the uniting of two lives into one in Christian marriage. One of the privileges we have as pastors in the church is to be involved with people during these times of celebration and grief. We may be enjoying some moments of laughter and joy one minute and shedding tears the next. These two gatherings serve as bookends for anyone who has been blessed with marrying their soulmate, and they represent some of the best and worst days that our lives here on Earth have to offer.
Then, on Saturday night, my wife and I attended the graduation party of a young lady whom we were privileged to watch grow up from her preschool years into adulthood. Seeing her as a mature woman ready to take on the world was a blessing to us. And, being able to gather in a home with others who were also celebrating with her was something we won’t take for granted ever again.
A comment I shared with several folks last year was that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the tragedies of the past fourteen months was that people have not been able to grieve or celebrate properly. Last year at church we had fewer memorial services and fewer weddings than in previous years. And the ones that we did participate in had many less people in attendance due to COVID protocols and the fear of people getting together in a large gathering. Some couples postponed their wedding celebrations until a later time when more people could be present on their special day. Some families had private memorial services with fewer folks present than they might have been able to host in previous years.
Supporting One Another
We were made to get through the times of our lives (both the best and the worst, and the in-between) together! We are made for community!
Jack Mueller, owner of Mueller Funeral Home in Mason, sees his job as funeral director as a way to offer compassion to people when they need it most. He is very active in our community and always does a tremendous job with the memorial services that we are a part of. I asked him to share his thoughts on the need for community in people’s lives. He said:
“The past year has posed many difficulties for those who have experienced a death in their family. The restraints that the COVID-19 pandemic has created won’t allow family members and friends to express their support and sympathy with a grieving family. The love and support received from family and friends is the strength needed for individuals and families to cope with a loss and help carry them through their grief. Without the love and support from others, grieving family members feel isolated, alone, and stuck in a depressing environment to figure out grief by themselves. It takes the love and support of family, church, and community to carry the grieving to a safer ground.”
In his book, Experiencing Grief, author Kenneth Haugk, shares:
“There are caring people in your congregation or community with experience, skills, or training to understand grief and help grieving people. . . . Seek out people who will really listen to you and will really accept you for who you are, and get together with them to talk on a regular basis.”
God has provided people in our lives who can help us get through the tough times we experience, as King David called it, “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). And, I am thankful that people are getting back together to help celebrate lives well-lived, and help those left behind to walk through their grief process.
Celebrating with One Another
Have you watched any of the episodes of The Chosen, the recent series based on the life of Jesus Christ? The series’ creators distinguished this dramatic portrayal of the life of Christ by crafting a multi-season, episode-based story that depicts Christ and his followers in a very authentic way. This Jesus seems more approachable to me than many previous portrayals of our Lord in film. I loved this scene from The Chosen in which, after Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding feast in the town of Cana in Galilee, the disciples hit the dance floor along with the other wedding guests. I love how this series shows Jesus celebrating with the new bride and groom, their families, and the community. I love how it shows Jesus meeting people at whatever their point of need—whether that was in celebration, physical pain, doubt, or grief.
Luke 7 relates the story of Jesus and his disciples as they entered the village called Nain, and came upon a funeral procession at the city gate. Jesus approached the bereaved, a widow whose only son had died, and his “heart overflowed with compassion” (v. 13, NLT). After Jesus commanded the young man to get up, the dead boy sat up and began to talk. After witnessing this miracle, people in the crowd exclaimed, “A mighty prophet has risen among us. God has visited his people today” (v. 16, NLT).
God the Father and God the Son visited his people. He cared very much about celebrations—both wedding feasts and memorial services. He once showed up late for the funeral of his good friend Lazarus, and his sisters were very upset with Jesus (see John 11:1-44). They didn’t understand why Jesus did so—but it was in order for God to be glorified in an even greater way. Then, Jesus did the unthinkable. He called Lazarus to come out of the tomb, as he raised him from the dead. Lazarus’s sisters thought Jesus was not on time—but he was very much on time. Jesus does the very same thing for us, whether we are celebrating or grieving. He’s always available to meet us at our point of need. He’s always on time.
Wise King Solomon tells us, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. . . . A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 4, NLT).
I’m glad the time has come for people to be able to celebrate together and grieve together in community again. Aren’t you?